The Lure ★★★½

If you only see one story this year where a cold-blooded monster disguises itself as a human and preys upon its fawning admirers, all while residing underneath the rule of an ideologically contemptuous and cruelly manipulative regime, make sure to watch The O'Reilly Factor.

If you can see two, then watch The Lure as well.

Really, though, you should see The Lure. No, it's not a great film. Hell, I'm not even sure it's a good film; hard to describe a work as tonally disparate and narratively broken as Agnieszka Smoczynska's debut feature an absolute success, no matter how high its highs may be. But it's a friggin' most film, one of the moviest movies you could ever imagine, a kinetic, jubilant, pessimistic, gory, icky, sensuous blur of song and slaughter, a post-feminist fable alluringly confused about both its feminism and its fabledom. Smoczynska may not have a clear idea of what story she wants to tell—ostensibly a modern twist on Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid, only with a lot more cigarettes and stripping and cannibalism and a lot less logic—but dear lord does she have a firm grasp on just how weirdly she wants to tell it, cramming in enough off-kilter sex and goofiness and violence to keep you from ever growing distracted by just how formulaic it eventually becomes.

Not to mention it's a musical, and a damn catchy one at that. The soundtrack, written and performed by Polish pop group Ballady i Romanse, glitters and thumps with New Wave abandon, perky synths piled on top of siren-esque vocals and lyrics either laughably cryptic or egregiously on-the-nose. Sure, the film, like most modern albums, tends to be front-loaded with the hits—I challenge you to hear "Byłaś Serca Biciem" and not have it bouncing around your cerebellum for the next three days—and the latter half grows far too morose to keep up with the cabaret nuttiness of the first act, but who effin' cares. It's a rock opera about cannibalistic mermaid stripper synth-pop singers who live in 80s-era Communist Poland. Uneven is a given.

If only Smoczynska could've reined in the randomness plaguing the narrative, found a better way to work in some of the oddball digressions that appear out of nowhere and lead to nothing. (Five dollars if you can explain to me why Triton appears in the film other than to look like a guy who gets all of his vital nutrients through seductively smoking cigarettes.) Subplots percolate and implode. Seemingly important actions aren't explained or referenced again. Game-changing plot points pop up as an afterthought. Characters disappear for long stretches of the film with no reason given for their absence or their reappearance. Yet, despite all these inexplicable (and occasionally infuriating) missteps, The Lure remains adamantly compelling in all its flawed, vamped-out delirium, as transfixing as the sirens' calls within. And while it's difficult to rationalize how a film whose teenage protagonists spend seventy-five percent of its run time topless ranks as a feminist statement on strong women fighting the patriarchy, it's just as hard to justify not watching a movie where a mermaid sings a hopeful ballad while being bisected by a surgeon, or where a cop fellates a fishtail during some intense lesbian-fish sex.

Like I said. You should watch The Lure.

One word of advice (not to sound anthropescophobic): if a mermaid ever starts summoning you into a large body of water by seductively singing a song where she promises not to eat you, she's gonna eat you.

Oob liked this review